Vegan Cornbread!

It’s chili season, and it’s my personal belief that chili is incomplete without cornbread! I was recently emailed by someone asking about vegan cornbread, one that isn’t too sweet or dry. I quite like this recipe — it never fails and is a hit everywhere I take it. When it comes to cornbread, I like using flax seed gel or “eggs”, as it gives the bread a slightly nutty flavor, which pairs well with the corn.

When it comes to flax seed and egg conversion:
One egg = 1 Tablespoon ground flax in 3 Tablespoons hot water. Whisk and let sit for a couple minutes to form a gel.

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Homemade chili atop homemade cornbread; is there a better combination? (Okay, maybe cake and ice cream.)

Vegan Metal Brunch — A Success!

The vegan black metal brunch I attended on Sunday was a huge success! It was a potluck, and everything I had was awesome. I love eating other people’s dishes — I get so sick of my own. I’ve been trying out new recipes here and there — I’m kind of a picky eater these days. I don’t want too much gluten, or anything too heavy, but I get bored real fast with salads. I have been enjoying the vegan blog Olives for Dinner, I make her crab cakes almost weekly! It’s fun to play with ingredients and tastes I normally wouldn’t think to put together myself. There were jackfruit tacos at the brunch, which reminded me that I am very much looking forward to trying out this recipe.

photo-1Here we have, clockwise from the top: a “beef” slider with homemade queso, a bbq jackfruit taco with coleslaw, gluten-free biscuits with gluten-free country gravy, avocado-tomatillo sauce, which goes with the pumpkin black bean empanda that is covered by my southern-style greens.

The point of this post, without getting too long winded, is that I used a combination of garfava flour and Trader Joe’s gluten-free all purpose mix with fantastic results. I made my biscuits, using half TJ’s mix and half garfava flour and they came out great. I wanted to try them without corn flour, as it’s such a common allergen for people. I also did this for the zucchini bread recipe I liked so much last week. It was a risk, as I turned it into an apple-blueberrry coffee cake, and gluten-free at that! Seriously, just sub 1.5 cups garfava flour and 1.5 cups TJ’s gluten-free mix to the 3 cups of flour it calls for, and viola! No one could even tell it was gluten-free! The only thing was that, and I always forget this, gluten-free baked goods tend to bake faster than their regular flour counterparts. So instead of taking 50 – 55 minutes, the bake time was closer to 40 minutes. Oh yes, I also added 3/4 tsp xanthan gum.

You can tell when cakes are done one, or all, of three ways:
They start to pull away from the sides of the pan.
When you stick a toothpick in the middle, it comes out clean.
When you lightly press down on the top of it, it springs right back up.

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My new not-so-secret weapons for gluten-free baking! I like the TJ’s mix because not only does it have rice flour in it, but a couple heavier starches. I think they help with binding, but I’m not totally sure. When I looked at the package though, I didn’t think the mix was enough — I had an instinct it needed to be cut with garfava flour, which I’m glad I followed!

I’ll write out the recipe for the coffee cake in another post, coming soon! I am so proud of the results!

Vegan Metal Brunch!

My buddy Sean invited me to a vegan, heavy metal, potluck brunch on Sunday, and since my best friend Caroline is going to be back in town, the gang is reuniting! Caroline and I had plans to go to Donut Farm, but we’re going go check out this metal brunch thing instead. I’m into indie pop myself, but I like meeting new people and experiencing different things (so that I never have to do them again. I kid, I halfway kid).

Since every single time I go to Donut Farm I order the biscuits and gravy with a side of southern greens, I will be bringing a homemade version to the potluck! I’ll be sautéing a variety of greens (a southern-style mix, spinach and Kale, all from TJ’s) with some liquid smoke, and preparing my gluten-free biscuits and gravy!*

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I’ve been dying to try the Trader Joe’s gluten-free baking mix, so I picked some up today. During a TJ’s shopping trip awhile ago, I read the label, to see what flour mixture they use, and I my first thought was, “Oh man, this needs to be cut with some garfava flour”. I don’t know why, I can’t explain the science, but that was my baker’s instinct. I’m not sure if I’m going to play around with it for my biscuits and gravy, but I was thinking that I wanted to make a gluten-free coffee cake for the brunch as well. I can be a little of an over-achiever sometimes, or always, when it comes to showing off food. Of course, I always end up underwhelmed by what I make, but we are our harshest critics, right?

If all goes well, I will definitely post all about it! If not, I’ll pretend it never happened.

*The brunch is not a gluten-free event, but I like to bring these kinds of items because that allergy/sensitivity runs so rampant. Plus, I fancy myself a pretty great vegan and gluten-free baker, so it’s just another chance to show off! “THIS IS GLUTEN-FREE?? YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME”, is what I go for.

Baking with Nuts and Fruit!

Cici asks: When adding nuts or fruit (e.g., dried cherries, raisins) or even chocolate morsels to a recipe that doesn’t originally call for it, are there any adjustments that need to be made to account for their additional moisture/oil content?

My short answer is: nope! Add away! Chocolate chips, nuts and dried fruits won’t change the moisture content of your baked goods, so go for it! Just be sure to start out with a small amount, as it’s easy to add more to taste, but difficult to take out if you decide you may have thrown in too much.

Adding chopped fresh fruit on the other hand may change things a little, but I tend to add it without caution. Personally I would rather have desserts on the slightly under-baked and moisture-rich side than dry and/or over-baked. If you are worried about the moisture content of your baked goods, you can lightly coat any fresh fruit you are adding with flour. This is an especially great trick when making fruit pies, to keep the filling from getting too juicy.

When I am making something like a berry or banana cake, in which I want the flavor to be there, but not pieces of fruit necessarily, I will puree my fruit. Then, I will use my puree in place of about 1/2 to 3/4 of the liquid my cake or baked good calls for, which is usually water or some form of non-dairy milk*. Another little trick of the trade is that lemon actually makes berry flavors stand out, so if I’m making something with berries, I’ll be sure to add some lemon zest to the batter!

I hope that answers your question, Cici!

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One of my favorite desserts to make is strawberry cake, covered in frosting, and smothered with ganache — I like to think of it as a baked chocolate covered strawberry! Because fresh fruit as a decoration tends to bleed all over frosting, my secret weapon is dehydrated strawberries as garnish! 

*If you want dessert that is a little less sweet, you can use fruit puree in place of sugar instead of the liquid. You can even add a bit of sugar or agave to the puree.

 

If It’s Vegan, That Means It’s Healthy, Right?

I get this question a lot at work. When customers are looking at the dessert case, they ask if the desserts are healthy. I usually laugh and say “Well, there’s no cholesterol in them, but no”. Yes, my desserts are lacking the cholesterol, even trans fats and nasty preservatives that many of my dairy/egg dessert counterparts contain, but they are not healthy. Sugar is still sugar, fat is still fat, calories are still calories and vegan desserts are usually chock-full of these.

The only vegan desserts I would argue that could be considered healthy are raw desserts. They are usually sweetened with agave and/or dates, with the fats being made of nuts and coconut oil. I also make raw desserts, baby! Personally, I always feel much better after eating, let’s say a raw fruit cheesecake than a vegan cupcake.

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Do not be fooled into thinking this vegan moon pie is health food! It looks and tastes so decadent because it is!

Baking with Coconut Oil!

Tyme asks: What, if any, adjustments are needed to sub coconut oil (either as a solid or liquid, as the recipe dictates) in recipes?

Excellent question, and thank you girl, for being the first to submit! My baking experience with coconut oil is limited, but I haven’t run into any problems with it. I always melt it down, using it as a substitute for Earth Balance (or butter) and vegetable/canola oil. I haven’t used it as a substitute for shortening yet, in something like biscuits or pie crust, though I’ve been meaning to for awhile.

I use it cup for cup — I don’t alter the measurements that the recipe calls for. Also, check the back of your jar of coconut oil, to see what temperature the oil can withstand before breaking down. The label on mine says it can withstand temperatures up to 360 degrees so I wouldn’t use it for a recipe that needs a higher bake temperature than that.

Now the reverse of this question, but I think proves my cup-for-cup theory is that at work, I use the Baby Cakes recipes for my gluten-free vanilla and chocolate cake. Her recipes call for coconut oil, but since my space at work is very limited and I have time constraints (so I don’t want to take the time to melt down coconut oil), it is easier for me to use the safflower oil we have available there. I don’t alter the amount of oil, at all. The cakes turn out great!

I always melt down my coconut oil. You can do this by submersing the jar in hot water or making a homemade bain-marie or double boiler*. Again, I’ve only used it in pie fillings, cakes and zucchini bread, not something like cookies, that call for butter at softened but solid state.

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Photo courtesy of Tyme.

*I make my homemade double boiler with a saucepan and metal bowl. I bring water to a boil in the saucepan, then place my metal bowl containing whatever it is I want to melt down (ganache, coconut oil, Follow Your Heart soy mozzarella) on top of it, so it rests on the sauce pan, but not the water. I then turn done the flame to low, or  just off altogether, and let the steam gently melt down my food item.

Vegan Zucchini Bread!

It’s fall, which means squash is on everybody’s mind. I’m not a big fan of pumpkin (blasphemous, I know, I know) but I am a huge fan of zucchini! Last night I randomly got the urge to make zucchini bread. It’d been years! I remember it was something my mom would always make, as opposed to pumpkin flavored things. I guess the disdain runs in the family, haha.

Now, I’m sure there is a plethora of vegan recipes out there, but I like to take “regular” recipes and veganize them. Sometimes I find vegan recipes call for a lot of unnecessary and expensive ingredients. So, I took this recipe and made it my own.

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I will apologize now for my photography skills. I am not a photographer. I am a blogger, and a food-maker, but food photography is not my forte. 

I veganized this recipe by using melted coconut oil instead of butter (although vegetable oil would have sufficed as well), flax seed instead of eggs and brown rice syrup instead of sugar. I only used the brown rice syrup because I had a bottle left over from some VegNews recipe-testing I had done that I wanted to use up. White sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar or brown sugar would’ve  been fine as well.

Now, the recipe called for two eggs, which I used flax seed for. I like to use flax seeds as an egg substitute in heartier, bread-like baked goods. I don’t like nuts in my cookies, for instance, but if you do, flax seeds would give them a subtle nutty flavor, as opposed to good ol’ egg replacer.

Flax seed “eggs” or gel:
1 Tablespoon ground flax
3 Tablespoons hot water

Whisk together until a gel forms and let sit for a few minutes. Because the recipe called for two eggs, I doubled that conversion.

The zucchini bread was a huge hit with both my friend Britney and my roommate Dan. Because I bake for a living, and am constantly surrounded by sweets and flour, I don’t really consume them at home. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked this bread — it was lightly sweet and very moist, without being too dense. I made the mistake of cutting a piece when it was hot, which made that spot a little gummy, but once it cooled completely, any gumminess went away.

I also made a streusel topping for it, which I made from memory but you can easily find online. I used vegetable shortening, flour, both brown and cane sugar, plus cinnamon. It topped the bread off very nicely!

EDIT: Now that my mom has commented on my blog, I come to find out she does like pumpkin; it’s pumpkin pie she dislikes (in her words — hates). She also reminded me that we put chocolate chips in everything, so of course I was going to put chocolate chips in this bread last night, BUT I FORGOT!